Divine Affections and Their Object

There are many true and earnest souls at the present time sorely perplexed and tried because of the absence in them of those qualities which they really long for, as suitable to Christ dwelling in the heart by faith. In proportion to their reality, and uprightness of conscience, is their sorrow and perplexity. They have tasted what earth and the things around cannot impart to them, yet it has been but a taste; the longings and yearnings are there unsatisfied, and hope deferred maketh the heart sick. They see a brightness which they do not possess, a portion which is not theirs. They are like Mary at the tomb; affection unmet is in them; this world is but a grave to them at best; they can tell you with broken heart and weeping eyes, "I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not;" and often they say, "Oh, that I knew where I could find him!"

Now all this imparts to the soul in such a state a perturbation, a disquietude, an unrest, which is very marked; — like the bee in quest of honey, which will inflict its bitterest sting on all who seek to oppose it in its pursuit.

These satisfied affections so longed for, heavenly tastes so very earnestly desired, Christ living (domiciled) in the heart, eternal life exhibited here below — all these, and much more akin to them, are results, consequences, effects, not the producing power. I will state presently what that power is.

I need not delay to demonstrate the truth, that produced effects or consequences cannot either create themselves or exist even apart from that which alone can create them. You will generally find that if the mind or thought dwell much on the absence or possession of these things, the soul is correspondingly depressed or elated. It is surely good to be convicted, but dwelling much on our shortness of stature in divine fellowship, or on our leanness in realisation, leads to self-occupation of a very insidious nature; and what comfort can there be in seeing certain qualities and joys which we know we ought to possess, but which we have not? This is to us really what Pisgah was to Moses — sight without possession; and hence in a manner we are tantalized and chafed in spirit.

Let me try to state simply, as far as I know it myself, that which alone can awaken, sustain, and satisfy divine affections in the soul.

1. There must be an object, as the spring or source, sustainment, and satisfaction of them; hence these affections which rise, live, and set in this object must be of the same nature with it. Christ is the object, and the affections He alone awakens, sustains, and satisfies must be divine.

2. There must be, through faith, conscious union by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, to Christ our object, the glorified Man at the right hand of God. Wonderful, blessed fact; we are united to Him in glory! It is accepted in faith; and in the measure of our faith is our realisation, communion, and joy.

3. He to whom we are united is in glory; and the whole glory of God, that is God's satisfaction according to His attributes, shines in His blessed face! It is from thence every ray of light that has reached us has shone. It is there we by faith see Him, know Him, have intercourse with Him.

In having to do with the Lord Jesus, it must be where He is; then, as it is so, as He Himself in glory engages and engrosses the soul, the affections, tastes, desires so ardently longed for are produced in us, and satisfied too.

This is all most important to bear in mind, because there is often a great deal of beholding afar off, a great deal of mere admiration without its being untrue; the view from Pisgah captivating the heart, the land that Jehovah our God cares for, and on which His eyes continually rest, viewed but not entered or dwelt in; seen in such a way as to spoil all else, but to give nothing better in actual possession. Such display dissatisfaction and disappointment at every turn of their path; they have no moral superiority or power.

Nor would this, in any way, exclude that diligence and purpose of heart which there must ever be on our part most surely, yet not in any wise in the direction of what is produced in us, as if we could secure these, but that diligence and purpose of heart which is expressed in the words "looked up steadfastly into heaven;" for it is as we are detained by Christ Himself in glory, that those fruits are imparted to us which are seen and observed by men. Again I repeat it, nothing can produce results corresponding to heaven, but occupation with Christ who is there. We are transformed into His image, I mean in our measure here, as we are impressed by Him there. Oh, the glory of His grace that shines into us, as Himself, the beloved of the Father, fills the entire vision of the soul, thus shaping and forming us in moral assimilation to Himself.

Thus, too, it is that the heart is secured against the danger of valuing the occupation because of the effect and consequences seen in others as resulting from it, rather than for the joy and satisfaction of being in the company of Christ. Not that any true saint would desire to allow the thought, yet we know ourselves but little if we have but little fear in this direction; and be assured of it, when the effects of having to do with Christ are prominent in the soul, Christ is valued rather in relation to these than for what He is in Himself; and His company is not sought or kept because of the simple satisfaction of being with Him.

With us it ought to be Canaan first and then the lessons of the wilderness. These have a very different character when this is the order. Yet I am assured it is the divine order for us. Working to heaven, and living from heaven, are two very different conditions of soul. It is true we are going on to heaven through the wilderness, and yet it is also true that we have started from it; and this does not make the wilderness of this world less the wilderness than it is; but if we traversing it as from glory, all about it would be gilded, the clear and blessed light of heaven would soften the hardness and cheer the dreariness of its wilds.

It was after Moses had been in the mount with God that his face shone; the effects were witnessed by Israel when he descended from the mount. Stephen, we are told, being full of the Holy Ghost looked up stedfastly into heaven. He saw Jesus in the glory of God; he saw that which no man before him was competent to look at — the glory of God; and he saw in that glory Him who was scorned, hated, and rejected by man on this earth. Wonderful sight to faith! It had been no new thing for the heavens to open on the earth when there was One there who was worthy; but He had died out of it, and the heavens were closed as it were; they did not open to look down upon the earth, nor did they open for any one on earth to look into them, But now the heavens open to Stephen, and he, by the Holy Ghost, looks up, and sees Jesus in the glory of God; and in the power of that sight which was food and strength to his soul, he bears his testimony, seals it with his blood, and follows Christ even to death.

If we look at Paul, it is the same heavenly story. (Phil. 3.) The Man in glory had formed in the vessel the affections and tastes suited to Himself, but He had also satisfied those affections. Thirty years of continuous trial and unceasing labour had passed between the day that Jesus in glory met him on the road to Damascus and the time the Epistle to the Philippians was written; the dungeon of Nero might exclude the natural sun, but the light from heaven, above its brightness, shone as brightly as ever, and the only change in Paul is that now he counts all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.

Even in the things of time and sense, it would not be possible to overrate the power of an object; how much more when that object is the eternal Son of the Father, the glorified One!

Do we really know that we are one with Him in glory? Do we seek his company for the simple satisfaction of being with Him? Remember, you can never be for Christ in any little measure, save as you know, possess, and dwell with Him in heaven.

There cannot be too much purpose of heart, too great fixedness of gaze as we look up stedfastly into heaven; yet these are neither the object of the heart, nor do they produce or promote likeness to Him. Christ, and Christ alone, is the object. The Holy Ghost, by whom we are one with Him, occupies the soul with Him, and the effect is seen by those around in the quiet restful superiority with which all our path here is trodden. We see it in Paul; we see the race of a heavenly man — goal, prize and mark before him: he presses on; he stands fast when no one stood by him, but all forsook him; amid general weakness and abounding declension, he pursues his onward upward advance. He can "rejoice in the Lord greatly "amid sorrow upon sorrow; he can be careful for nothing amid ceaseless anxieties and disquietudes, casting them on Him who can bear them, and not feel their weight, and receiving instead the peace of God which passeth every understanding; he can let things go here because he possesses an eternal portion in Christ in that place where He is, who "is at hand;" he can occupy his heart with what is good amid abounding evil, and find the God of peace with him; he can be abased and yet not disheartened, can abound and yet be not elated; because Christ is his sufficiency in the dark day, and better than the best in the bright day. Nothing is able to stand before the heavenly man all the days of his life; nothing daunts him; seated on the power of Christ, he can do all things; though he has nothing, yet he possesses all; though empty, yet he is full; he has a source, supply, measure, and channel equal to the heart of God, hence he can say, "My God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Such, then, are the sources, maintenance, and satisfaction of those divine affections and yearnings which never can exist apart from their object, Christ, the glorified One at God's right hand. May the Lord, by His Spirit, so turn and keep the faith of His beloved saints fixed there, that in them may be witnessed at this present time a more quiet, restful, and satisfied course through this present evil world, for His own name's sake.